FORT IRWIN, Calif. — As the sun came up Friday morning, there were two soldiers “injured.”
During the final night of a two-week scenario at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., soldiers of 3rd “Greywolf” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were still trying to stabilize the area.
“As part of the wide area security mission, I’ve been asked to neutralize the threat in (the nearby village) and conduct site exploration,” said Lt. Col. Michael Payne, commander of Greywolf’s 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, as he staged a convoy to travel from the battalion’s command post into the nearby village to meet with key leaders to ensure the locals there were safe.
The brigade was conducting decisive action training, which incorporates conventional force-on-force combat with counterinsurgency lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. Key leader engagements are part of the counterinsurgency training.
The training, conducted in the 1,200 square miles of Fort Irwin training grounds known as “the box,” allowed the battalion to work on local interaction and security as well as utilizing its five attached assets for the rotation, including a company-sized element of the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit from Ohio.
“It’s essential that the maneuver units … have exposure to civil military operations and the importance of connecting with the populace, the Department of State and the U.N.,” said Maj. Raheem Terrell, civil military operations chief for the Reserve battalion. “The maneuver brigade can win the fight. It’s what they do. The civil affairs mission is to make sure they don’t have to fight again.”
The training center provided role players who served as villagers, as well as military partner organizations such as the State Department.
“We have to train how to integrate all that as part of the wide area security mission, while still pushing combat power forward,” Payne said. “Simultaneously, while providing security in the area, we negotiate with mayors, police chiefs, city councils and leaders to understand why we are here as well as expectations management as far as what assistance we can provide.”
This partnership created, he said, can stifle potential criminal elements from rising up in the city.
“The human element has to be part of the battle now,” Payne said. “The enemy no longer is just a uniformed enemy. It could be a local citizen upset about what U.S. forces are doing in the city.”
Payne said the battalion’s time at the center generated an enormous amount of learning.
“Because we’re fighting a near-peer competitor … it turns our soldiers into a thinking force so they can react and plan forward to have the right amount of combat power or non-lethal combat power when needed,” he said. “The last thing we want to do is make the U.S. look bad wherever in the world we are. … It’s getting these guys to take the next step.”